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First Virtual Reality Community in South Africa

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The Cape Innovation and Technology Initiative (CiTi) launched the first Virtual Reality community in South Africa last night at the Bandwidth Barn, Cape Town.

The event was packed with a cross section of media, graphic designers and architects, gamers and game developers, coders and venture capitalists, film as well as technology and innovation enthusiasts.

Ian Merrington, CEO of CiTi, said in his welcome speech, “Tech and innovation are no longer about isolated development or working in silos. Rather it is a catalyst bringing together industries, disciplines and mediums in our quest to innovate and create. The Virtual Reality community is a first in the country and we are proud to continue CiTi’s tradition of technology, innovation and inclusive growth through this new initiative.”

virtual reality community

Glenn Gillis from Sea Monster speaking at the launch

Glenn Gillis, managing director of Sea Monster – an animation studio in Cape Town that has a Virtual Reality project in full development, and has formed a partnership with Angel Hub for seed funding – spoke about the importance of balancing up the possibilities offered by the new technology.  “Of course, for this to be more than just a fad,” said Glenn, “these new platforms will have to find ways to balance great creative ideas, with the realities of what the technology can deliver, with key business or social outcomes, with creating entertaining and satisfying user experiences.”

Grant de Sousa and Tyrone Rubin from Virtual Reality SA spoke on the current climate of VR globally as well as the future of Virtual Reality and the potential for applications in business and entertainment. The overwhelming success of the launch is testament to the power and attraction of Virtual Reality,” says Grant. “Our message then and now is clear: To drive South Africa’s first virtual reality community forward with like-minded ambitious people through one word: passion. As a team will continue to drive the community forward as South Africans in the virtual reality space, not only as followers but, ultimately, as leaders in the virtual reality community, globally.”

virtual reality community

Packed audience wowed by virtual reality’s potential.

Together with their partner, Richard Ramsbottom, they are bringing their expertise in coding, their passion for VR and their vision for its application in South Africa to this new Virtual Reality community. “Our aim is to collaborate with likeminded people in a synergistic forum that will encourage big-thinking, ideas, solutions and bigger, more effective results,” says Tyrone. “We’d like to see Cape Town on the leading edge of VR development in the world.”

Says Chris Vermeulen, Head of Enterprise Development at the Barn, “Telkom and CiTi support the Virtual Reality community by providing space, broadband, skills and mentorship. The community will meet once a month at the Barn and continue to share ideas, learn, grow and build together.”

The event’s most convincing guests, however, was the Virtual Reality technology itself. Google Cardboard (retailing for a mere R170), for Android brought virtual reality to smartphones. Oculus Rift, developed by 22 year old Palmer Luckey from Silicon Valley and subsequently bought by Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, was also on demonstration and had a queue around the room of delegates who wanted to experience Virtual Reality.

Says Hermanus “Duke” Vermeulen, who has his PhD in Virtual Reality from UCT and attended the event, “It seems that the dream of Virtual Reality is finally becoming achievable and accessible. Although there is still a lot of hype and unknowns, you only need to watch people’s reactions to their Virtual Reality experiences to realise that there is something of value there. It is difficult to describe the experience of Virtual Reality to someone. Words, text, images and video are not able to communicate it effectively. The only way really is to enable someone to experience it for themselves. That is why events such as this are so valuable.”

The next Virtual Reality community event will be in a month’s time, and will follow on a monthly basis at the Bandwidth Barn.

To contact the Barn: Tel 021 409 7000

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